Category Archives: Dog Diseases

Tick Season – Is it time to change your routine?

  • What do you use for a flea and tick preventative?
  • Do you use the same product year after year since it works?
  • Did someone recommend the product?
  • With new stories about flea and tick preventives available, are you rethinking your usual strategy? I know I am.

For many years, I was against using flea and tick pesticides on my dog. Continue reading

Why is my dog scratching his face?

Chipper, my cocker spaniel, rubbed the left side of his face everywhere, on my legs, the kitchen cabinets, even on the asphalt driveway.  He would scratch at his face, but not to the point of damaging the skin, so I couldn’t tell exactly where he itched.

He drooled puddles of saliva while he sat patiently hoping for a tidbit while my husband and I ate dinner. I frequently grabbed paper towels to wipe a string of slime from his jowls.  Every morning I used a fine-toothed comb to remove most of the dried gook, which collected on his neck and the inside tip of his long droopy ear.  His white jaw and neck developed a brown stain. Chipper normally wasn’t such a drooly, itchy dog. Continue reading

Bad Dog Breath – Why You Should Clean their Teeth

“Come Buddy,” I motioned my arm for my sister’s deaf twelve year-old cocker spaniel to approach me as I sat on the kitchen floor, toothbrush in hand.  He patiently sat in front of me while I inserted his new toothbrush into his mouth.  He had just moved in with me since my sister didn’t think he would survive the four-day drive to California where she was re-locating.

I turned my head away as he exhaled a rotten egg smell.  His yellow and black teeth suffered from years of neglect.  I only hoped I could reduce his bad breath by starting a daily brushing routine.  His foul breath prevented me from giving him many hugs and pets he needed at this time of transition so late in his life. Continue reading

Wobbly Gait in Dogs – Is it Serious?

Cassie tripped as she walked on the driveway, caught herself and kept walking toward me.  How many times had this happened today?  At least ten, or was it closer to twenty?  I watched her walk, awkwardly curving to the left.  My vet thought she had arthritis in opposite legs, causing her to trip and walk abnormally.  A week later, she couldn’t walk and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We had to put her down less than a week later as her condition deteriorated.

Ataxia or abnormal gait, takes many different forms, most of which are neurological, although there could be joint issues such as arthritis.  Continue reading

Ear Infections – Yuk!

On a Sunday morning in early August, I sat on the kitchen floor with a brush, comb, toothbrush, poultry flavored toothpaste, eye drops, ear cleaner and cotton balls in a pile next to me, while I called Buffy to come to me; a typical grooming session for both cocker spaniels. Sundays and Wednesdays were ear-cleaning days, while tooth brushing, combing, and eye drops were included every morning. Chipper’s ears were normal, a little bit of brownish wax, but Buffy had one clean ear and one ear with thick brown gook on the cotton ball that I had rubbed inside her ear. Yuk – probably an ear infection.

Buffy's ear

Buffy’s ear

Buffy's ear gook.

Buffy’s ear gook.

So, I cleaned Buffy’s ‘bad’ ear every morning for a month, figuring cleaning it more often would help. It didn’t. Then I cleaned her ear twice a day, and the gook got thicker. Finally, after six or more weeks of trying to treat her ear infection myself, I took her to the vet. Chipper tagged along for his six-month checkup since my vet likes to check older dogs twice a year.

The technician asked me when the infection started, and I remembered the time I took both dogs to a Lake Michigan beach on a hot day in early August. Neither of them wanted to swim, but I wanted to cool them off, so I convinced them to go in. Buffy only waded, chasing the ball up to chest deep water, until I pushed her in a little further to get her whole body wet. Chipper reluctantly swam after me when I called him. I didn’t give them a bath afterwards, or clean their ears – that was the problem.

The vet gave me new ear cleaner (I never thought about the expiration date – which was from 2012), and Tresaderm (a broad-spectrum antibiotic) for both dogs. It turned out Chipper also had an ear infection, although his ears didn’t produce as much gook as Buffy’s.

A week later, Buffy’s ear is still infected but Chipper’s looks better. The vet gave me a refill of Tresaderm and this time I noticed it said in large letters KEEP REFRIGERATED. Oops. Somehow, I hadn’t noticed that before. Also the link below mentions to allow the ear to dry at least ten minutes after using the ear cleaner—another oops! I had put the Tresaderm in right after cleaning. Maybe that’s why Buffy’s ear hasn’t healed. So read the directions thoroughly!

West Nile Virus in Dogs – is it a problem?

Chipper hiding in the weeds full of mosquitoes.

Chipper hiding in the weeds full of mosquitoes.

Here in northern Illinois we are at the height of mosquito season anytime we go outside near the grass or shrubs. Stepping on the lawn to pick up your dog’s morning dump causes a wave of mosquitoes to rise up to your bare legs, instigating a dance as you swat one, then another ,and another of these blood thirsty fiends. How many bite my dogs as they walk through the grass? It’s hard to tell since they don’t do the swatting dance that us human’s do, but I can see them swarming around their heads.

I can spray insect repellant containing DEET on my bare skin, but what about my dogs? Is it safe to spray them? – NO. Not even away from their faces. Dogs frequently lick themselves and DEET is toxic in higher amounts when ingested.

Can my dog get West Nile Virus? Yes, but it is rare, and can be serious leading to encephalitis or even death. Most mosquitoes don’t carry West Nile Virus and only 1% of people (and even fewer pets) that get infected will develop serious complications, most just feel like they have the flu.

Symptoms (for yourself and your pet):

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Swollen lymph nodes

A blood test will confirm if your pet is infected. Often the disease will go away on its own after a few days to a week. Older people and animals are more susceptible.




  • Remove standing water where mosquitoes may breed.
  • Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus are most active.
  • Use insect repellant on yourself and a canine insect repellant for your dog.
    • I have not tried a repellent recently on my dog, but K9 Advantix II claims to repel mosquitoes
    • Others claim Avon’s Skin-So-Soft works well to repel mosquitoes. I had tried this product several decades ago and did not like having my dog smell like a flower, but at a recent meeting, someone claimed that it worked wonders at repelling mosquitoes.


Cassie the water dog.

Cassie the water dog.

Does your vet ask you if your dog drinks out of puddles and streams? I discourage puddles, but lying in a stream and gulping cool water on a hot summer day, now that’s a water dog, or at least a hot dog trying to cool off. Springers are waterdogs – that’s why I’ve had two. Kaylee, my first springer, was a diving dog, literally diving below the surface to retrieve rocks, while Cassie was a wader or a “dabbling dog” as Mitch liked to say, only going chest deep and then backing out, swimming reluctantly to try and ‘save’ me before turning back to shore. But on a hot day, she was always in the water, even if it was just lying in her plastic kiddie pool. One of our favorite summer excursions was the one mile walk to Government Pier in Waukegan. Immediately on arrival Cassie lay down in the water and drank prodigiously, oblivious to the goose feathers and other flotsam in the water.

Although none of my dogs ever got sick from drinking from streams or lakes, apparently more cases of Leptospirosis have occurred in nearby states. Lepto is a bacterial infection that occurs after your pet drinks water where an infected skunk, raccoon, opossum, deer, or small rodent had urinated. This disease is not only a concern for pets, but is transmittable to humans.

For the last several years, Dr. Barcus at the Canine Center , recommended that Cassie have the annual vaccine against Leptospirosis each spring. Buffy and Chipper, do not enjoy the water, so do not need the vaccine.

Symptoms can include any of the following, making it difficult to diagnose, especially in the early stages:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pain
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding
  • Jaundice
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Eye inflammation
  • Death

Treatment: Antibiotics, but may need treatment for liver or kidney damage in more advanced cases.

Vaccines protect the dog for six to eight months, so depending on your location, you may need treatment twice a year, or only in the spring.

For more information, see the following articles:

The Decision

Deciding if it is time to put your best friend down has to be one of the hardest decisions to make.

  • Is it too soon?
  • Will the dog get better?
  • What is her quality of life?
Cassie & me on our last camping trip at Garden of the Gods State Park in Southern Illinois 3/23/15.

Cassie & me on our last camping trip at Garden of the Gods State Park in Southern Illinois 3/23/15.

Sometimes it’s obvious; the dog no longer enjoys anything; is not eating; and is in pain. Sometimes it’s not. Cassie’s last few days involved many of these questions. She still enjoyed eating, especially Mitch’s cooking and turkey heart treats.

She continued to deteriorate day by day. As of May 5th, Cassie couldn’t stand, even with the assistance of a sling and harness. As Mitch and I tried to ‘walk’ her over the grass, one supporting her rear with a sling and the other holding the harness to support her front, trying to get her to pee, her paws knuckled under her and she dragged them along, slanting hard to the left, a condition caused by a brain tumor. As we struggled to position her to eliminate, we both knew it was time to let her go.

As I drove Cassie to the vet, she lay sideways on the passenger seat with the back of the seat as flat as possible, the only position she could tolerate, and I kept questioning our decision. Should I give her another day or two? Maybe the drugs will have some effect if I give them more time. But we had already given them many days to work, and they hadn’t. She had only gotten worse.

I had a paralyzed dog before I got Cassie, could I handle it again? ‘No’, I decided. I had learned how difficult living with a paralyzed dog had been, and Cassie condition was worse than paralysis. It caused stress for both Mitch and I, with her panting in the middle of the night, waking us up to go potty, only to find her unable to go. Cassie had been a Velcro dog, following me from room to room, now she could no longer follow me and this stressed her. Her only enjoyment was eating.

Our vet showed tremendous kindness and consideration. She had been with Cassie through a lot, first coonhound paralysis at the age of three, then Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) starting at the age of eight, followed by arthritis, at ten years old, and now a brain tumor. Through it all Cassie remained happy and energetic, sometimes seemingly too energetic.

First Dr. Barcus installed a catheter in Cassie’s front leg, and then they brought her back to Mitch and me and laid her on a red blanket on top of a floor mat. As Mitch settled her down, I went to pay for the procedure. When I returned, he had propped her into a sitting position, watching me through the glass windows as I approached. How could she smile at me! Did she know what was about to happen, smiling only moments before dying? That smile will stay with me always. Maybe she knew and was okay with it. I can only hope.

We petted Cassie and gave her treats as we said our goodbyes. I gave her a kiss on the head and a hug. Then Dr. Barcus injected a tiny amount of salt water to test the catheter, then gave the narcotic and the overdose. Cassie laid her head down and went very peacefully. Her heart stopped within seconds of receiving the overdose. Mitch and I stayed with her for a few minutes, petting her as she passed.

For days as we discussed if it was time to put Cassie down, I had said I wanted her buried in our backyard, along with our last dog, Kaylee. The vet said technically it was illegal, but wouldn’t stop us. But when the day came, I decided at the last moment to get her cremated. Mainly since the appointment occurred during the middle of the day, and I would need to return home and lay her body on the garage floor as I returned to work, only to bury her around six hours later, during which her body might begin to smell in warm, damp weather.

Once Mitch and I left the vet in our separate cars to return to work, a sense of relief washed over me. The decision to put her down had been hard, but it felt right. Cremation also felt right. I found this poem written in 1925 by Ben Hur Lampman, on my work computer stored under Cassie and saved in 2009. I’m not sure why I saved it then, or what made me stumble over it on the day she died, but it rings very true

So, goodbye to the “most beautiful dog in the world,” someone said as I walked Cassie home from work a few years ago. She was definitely the prettiest dog I ever owned, and many people agreed. At least I still have Buffy and Chipper to keep me company through our daily routine of walks around the neighborhood.

Is it Time to say Goodbye?

Cassie being guided in her harness and sling.

Cassie being guided in her harness and sling.

My good friend and work partner for the past 11 ½ years, Cassie, can no longer walk. She leans hard to the left and falls down if she can’t manage to get her left rear leg under her. This morning she couldn’t walk more than a few steps with a tremendous amount of assistance, while yesterday she managed to walk around the block as long as my husband, Mitch, supported her with a harness and sling.

“I think it may be time to put her down,” Mitch said this morning after having a poor night’s rest from taking her out several times.

“I know.” The tears stung my eyes as the hope from her staggered gait yesterday drained away. Cassie has a brain tumor, causing her unsteadiness with walking, unfortunately, first diagnosed as arthritis in opposite legs. We doubled her prednisone level based on her vet, and a neurologist’s recommendations, which might temporarily shrink the tumor and give Cassie greater mobility for possibly a few months. But that was 2 ½ days ago, when she could walk.

“Call the vet and ask her if we should put her down or if there’s a chance that the prednisone may still help,” Mitch said.

The vet said that a brain tumor shouldn’t cause her to deteriorate so quickly. Leaning to one side is a classic symptom of vestibular disease . She recommended over the counter Meclizine for motion sickness, which might help within 3 – 5 days.

Cassie hard at work cleaning the pots. The t-shirt was to prevent Chipper from licking her sebaceous cyst.

Cassie hard at work cleaning the pots. The t-shirt was to prevent Chipper from licking her sebaceous cyst.

A ray of hope! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the Meclizine helps, since as of today, her condition is looking very bleak, except for eating. She’s still very enthusiastic for meals and treats. When she loses her appetite, we’ll know it’s time.

Mitch comforting Cassie

Mitch comforting Cassie